Tag Archives: Christmas

50 festive things for your Christmas Bucket List

Christmas is a season which is full of tradition. There are things you did as a child which you carry on doing every Christmas with your own family. We have tonnes of Christmas traditions and each year we somehow find new things to add to our festive to do list. If you’re looking for some new things to do this season, here are 50 festive things for your Christmas Bucket List.

50 festive things for your Christmas Bucket List

50 festive things for your Christmas Bucket List

  1. Bake treats for friends and family
  2. Decorate a gingerbread house
  3. Make an ornament for the tree
  4. Visit a Christmas tree farm
  5. Write a letter to Father Christmas
  6. Wear a terrible Christmas jumper
  7. Watch your favourite Christmas movie 
  8. Make hot chocolate
  9. Go ice skating
  10. Decorate the Christmas tree
  11. Visit Father Christmas
  12. Go and watch a pantomime
  13. Do a random act of kindness
  14. Read Christmas stories together
  15. Wear matching Christmas pyjamas
  16. Make and send Christmas cards
  17. Go and watch a nativity play
  18. Make a donation to your local food bank
  19. Build a snowman
  20. Go to a Christingle service at church
  21. Make magic reindeer food
  22. Bake cookies for all of your neighbours
  23. Sing Christmas carols together
  24. Hang up your Christmas stockings
  25. Kiss under the mistletoe
  26. Go sledging
  27. Go for a walk at night to see everyone’s Christmas lights
  28. Make mulled wine or mulled cider, or even mulled Vimto
  29. Toast marshmallows on the fire
  30. Have a snowball fight
  31. Cut out paper snowflakes
  32. Make your own snow globe
  33. Go to a carol concert
  34. Make paper chains
  35. Read the nativity story
  36. Visit your local Christmas market
  37. Make a festive wreath for your front door
  38. Tell someone that you love them
  39. Donate toys to your local children’s appeal
  40. Leave out some treats for Father Christmas and his reindeer
  41. Make a Christmas pomander
  42. Take a family portrait
  43. Read The Night Before Christmas
  44. Make a list of all the people and things you are thankful for
  45. Make snow angels
  46. Go on a Christmas steam train ride
  47. Play a family board game
  48. Make salt dough decorations
  49. Make a popcorn garland to feed the birds
  50. Give a secret gift to someone special

Those are some of the things which are on our Christmas Bucket List. There’s nothing to say we have to do them all in one year, but it would be nice to try and do them all over the years. I like to remind my son that Christmas isn’t just about getting a pile of presents, it’s about giving and sharing and being kind to one another. How will you be sharing the love this Christmas?

50 festive things for your Christmas Bucket List

Make your own Wildlife Friendly Magic Reindeer Food with FREE Printable Envelope

Every Christmas Eve we leave a plate out for Father Christmas. There’s a mince pie and a little tot or brandy and a carrot for Rudolph. But what about the other reindeer? Well, we sprinkle some magic reindeer food outside for them too.

Make your own Wildlife Friendly Magic Reindeer Food with FREE Printable Envelope

In previous years we’ve sprinkled a mixture of oats and glitter, or bought packets of ready-made magic reindeer food in a plastic wrapper. But these days we are a bit more aware of single use plastics and that glitter gets everywhere and isn’t that great for the environment either. With that in mind, this year we’ve made our own wildlife friendly mix of magic reindeer food and we’ve got a cute recyclable envelope you can print out and share with friends and neighbours.

To make the envelopes, just download the free printable. Cut along the lines on the outside, fold the two side flaps into the centre and glue them together. Fold the bottom flap up and glue that into place. Put your envelope under a book or something which will keep it flat while the glue dries.

Download your free envelope template here.

Make your own Wildlife Friendly Magic Reindeer Food with FREE Printable EnvelopeOnce the glue has dried, you can start filling each one with the wildlife friendly magic reindeer food mix. For each envelope you will need…

Wildlife friendly magic reindeer food mix

2 teaspoons of oats
2 teaspoons of wild bird seed
1 teaspoon of dried cranberries

We had a little bowl filled with each of the ingredients and using a teaspoon, we put the right amount of reindeer food in each one. To close the envelope, we used a dab of the glue, if you want to stick it down quickly, you could use a small sticker. We chose to use dried cranberries, partly because they are pretty and jewel like, and partly because we have a dog. Grapes, raisins, sultanas and currants can be poisonous for dogs.

Make your own Wildlife Friendly Magic Reindeer Food with FREE Printable Envelope

The really great thing about these envelopes is, once you’ve used them, they can just be put in the recycling. There’s no waste, the reindeer food will be gratefully snaffled up by the local wildlife; and there’s no pesky single use plastic to worry about either. It’s an all-round winner!

If you enjoyed this, you might also like this Free Nice List Printable.

Make your own Wildlife Friendly Magic Reindeer Food with FREE Printable Envelope

Easy Recipe: Sticky Ginger Sponge Cake with Cinnamon Frosting

I love a bit of ginger cake and at this time of year it’s a lovely warming bake to make for the family. It’s sticky and spicy and you can dress it up for Christmas, or dress it down for every day cake eating if you prefer. This sticky ginger sponge cake with cinnamon frosting is special enough to serve for an occasion, or you could glitz it up a bit more and serve it as an alternative Christmas cake, and it’s about as easy as can be.

Easy Recipe: Sticky Ginger Sponge Cake with Cinnamon Frosting

It is a really simple bake, do not be alarmed by how much water you need to use, or how wet the batter is when you put it in the oven. It comes out beautifully. It’s also worth noting that if you can bake the layers and leave them wrapped up for a few days, the ginger flavour improves. So it’s a good make ahead bake if you need that.

If you like ginger but don’t want it to be too strong, you can always reduce the amount you use in the recipe. I like it to be quite feisty, so I’ve used quite a lot here.

Sticky Ginger Sponge Cake with Cinnamon Frosting

Ingredients
400g self raising flour
400g soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda
110g baking margarine, plus extra for greasing
2 medium eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons of golden syrup
480mls hot but not boiling water
To make the frosting you will need…
250g unsalted butter
350g icing sugar
1-2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
Milk, a couple of tablespoons
To decorate, 3 ginger nut biscuits and some gold glimmer sugar

Easy Recipe: Sticky Ginger Sponge Cake with Cinnamon Frosting

How to make your Sticky Ginger Sponge Cake

Preheat the oven to 180C/350FGas 4. Grease and line 4 8inch cake tins with baking parchment.

Put all of the ingredients into a large mixing bowl, with an electric whisk (or a big spoon if you prefer) combine all the ingredients Into a smooth batter. It will look a bit runny, but it’ll be ok once baked, I promise.

Pour the mixture into your prepared tins, make sure there’s an equal (ish) amount in each tin. I weigh them to make sure they are more or less the same. Bake in your pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown and the top is springy to the touch.

Leave them to cool in the tin. Once cool, you’re ready to build you cake.

To make your buttercream frosting beat the butter and icing sugar, ground cinnamon and 1-2 tablespoons of milk together until smooth. Taste the buttercream, you can add more cinnamon if you prefer and more milk if you feel it needs to be softer.

To put you cake together, cut the domed tops off 3 out of your 4 cake layers, saving the best looking one for the top. Put your first later on your cake stand or plate, carefully spread some of the buttercream on top. Top with the second layer and cover that in more buttercream. Do the same with the third layer and then top with your prettiest layer.

You can decorate it however you want, there was enough buttercream for me to smooth some around the sides of my four layer cake tower, and I think it made the cake look a bit prettier. I piled the rest of the buttercream on the top of the cake and then crushed some ginger nut biscuits and mixed in a couple of teaspoons of some glittery sugar I had left over from another bake, then spooned them over the top.

This ginger sponge cake looked very pretty and tasted absolutely fantastic. This is such a good cake for a ginger lover. Lovely stuff.

For the people asking how do you make ginger cake sticky, I think it’s the golden syrup. I think it sort of seeps out of the sponge over time and makes it all sticky and lovely. I might be wrong, feel free to correct me in the comments!

If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also like to try these Grasmere ginger biscuits.

Easy Recipe: Sticky Ginger Sponge Cake with Cinnamon Frosting

Free Printable: Nice List Certificate Template

Download your free Nice List Certificate printable here today!

Now November is upon us, my thoughts are turning to Christmas. As I write this, we are in the middle of a pandemic and we are locked down and unable to go out, winter is settling in for the season and there doesn’t feel like there’s too much to cheer about. This is why this year I’ve decided to go all out for Christmas.

It may be smaller than we’d like, we might not be able to go to church or meet up for celebrations with friends and family, but I will be decking the halls brighter than ever before. I want to bring some extra twinkle, sparkle and love into my home and one of the ways of doing that will be really pushing the boat out for my son.

The Twelve Days of Christmas at Tatton Park 2017

That doesn’t mean I’ll be spending thousands of pounds of the latest gadgets, games and gizmos; it means I’ll be sprinkling some extra Christmas magic about the place. Part of what I do every year is a Christmas Eve Box and it always, always brings good cheer. I never really spend very much on it, it’s just full of fun things to do on Christmas Eve and it’s as much a part of our Christmas as turkey and Christmas stockings!

One thing I’m adding this year is a Nice List Certificate. It’s a simple thing and a nice little addition to the box. It’s also free, which is also quite important this year when many people are tightening their purse-strings.

Download the Father Christmas version hereFree Printable: Nice List Certificate Template father christmas

As I was making one for our use; I thought I would make two versions and make it available for you to download for free too. I made two versions because some people call the big bearded man Father Christmas and some call him Santa Claus. So I’ve made one of each and you can take your pick!

Download the Santa Claus version here

Free Printable: Nice List Certificate Template Santa

All you need to do is print it out and fill in the name of the child on the nice list. I’m hoping it will serve as motivation for an early night and no early morning Christmas stocking opening! Merry Christmas!

Free Printable: Nice List Certificate Template

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Christmas Baking: Speculaas Biscuit Baking Mix

AD gifted. One of my favourite things to do during the run up to Christmas is visit the Christmas markets in Manchester. Along with copious amounts of mulled wine, I always seek out the stall which sells speculaas biscuits. They’re full of festive spice and they’re just delicious.

Speculaas is a type of spiced biscuit traditionally baked on or just before St Nicholas’ Day and around Christmas in many European countries. Speculaas are thin, crunchy, slightly browned biscuits which usually have an image or figure stamped on the front side before baking. The most common design I’ve seen is the windmill, which is why I often call them windmill biscuits.

Christmas Baking: Speculaas Biscuit Baking Mix

Vandotsch recently sent me a packet of Speculaas Baking Mix to bake with. The packet contained almost everything you needed to bake a batch of speculaas, just add butter! The instructions were really easy to follow, and they took just minutes to mix together. It’s important to have faith that the mix will turn into a decent dough once you start working with it. Do not be tempted to add water or milk or anything, this will just make the dough too sticky.

The Vandotsch Baking Mix contains all the lovely festive spices speculaas are known for. Packed with cinnamon, cloves and ginger, the biscuits are a real Christmas treat. I don’t have a windmill shaped cutter, so I used my Christmas tree cutter, which worked pretty well. I had some dough left over, so I rolled this up into balls, squashed them with the palm of my hand and made a few seriously delicious cookie sized biscuits, because they were thicker they were somehow even better.

Christmas Baking: Speculaas Biscuit Baking Mix

The Baking Mix is suitable for vegetarians and vegans (if made with a non dairy substitute). It is also free from artificial flavourings, colours or preservatives. They are gluten free too.

The pre-made Baking Mix costs £5.59 and there are options to buy the mix with a traditional style cutter too. These would make a lovely gift for a keen baker like myself. Vandotsch have all kinds of speculaas spice and baking mixes on their website, so it’s worth having a look to see if anything tickles your fancy.

Christmas: Decorating our Real Christmas Tree

AD/Gifted. Growing up in the 80’s we always had a plastic tree. Every December it was dug out of the loft and decorated with a ramshackle selection of gaudy decorations and things we’d made at school. It was a tree heaving with sentimentality and we loved it.

Christmas: Decorating our Real Christmas Tree

When I eventually moved out of home, it was time for me to create some traditions of my own. Top of my list was to ditch the chintzy plastic tree and start buying a real Christmas tree every year; something we have stuck to. There’s something really nice about a real Christmas tree; from the gentle pine scent which fills the room, to the lovely prickly joy of decorating it. The real Christmas tree might have been something beloved of the Victorians; but it also looks very lovely in my 1940’s semi in South Manchester.

This year, like last year (and channeling Margo Leadbetter) I had my real Christmas tree delivered to me from The Christmas Forest. Based in London, they deliver top quality Christmas trees all over the UK. This saves me the faff of buying a tree locally and struggling to get it home, as a non-driver this is a real issue for me.

I ordered my 6ft real Christmas tree a few weeks ago and booked it to arrive on Friday; which it did do, bright and early; the driver even brought it in for me. Over the weekend we put it up, filled the base with water, dug our decorations out of the loft and set to work decorating it; something the boy is especially excited about doing these days.

As when I was a child, the tree isn’t covered in stylish and carefully co-ordinated trinkets; but mostly a selection of things we’ve made, or shiny things we have bought to remember the places we have been. I’ve picked out some of our favourite decorations from our tree, things that we’ve made and things that we love.

Christmas: Decorating our Real Christmas Tree

There are button decorations, hand painted baubles, a Tunnocks teacake bauble I made a few years ago, angels my son decorated at school, lolly stick decorations and easy paper baubles. I hope these will be on our tree every year and more will join them. I’ve always been a sucker for sentimentality, and our tree reflects who we are; homely, warm, with more of a taste of tradition than what’s hot and what’s not each Christmas.

If like me, you want to take some of the stress out of Christmas; getting a real Christmas Tree delivered is a real time saver and a godsend. It’s been such a help to have it delivered and it’s one very big thing off my festive to do list.

For more information about The Christmas Forest, or to order your Christmas Tree from them, visit Christmas Forest.

Disclaimer: We were sent our Christmas Tree for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Easy Christmas Recipe: Mincemeat Flapjack

One of the most enduring and classic flavours of Christmas is mincemeat. Mince pies are an undeniable Christmas classic, but I’ve been throwing mincemeat into cakes and vol au vents for a few years now. It’s too good an ingredient just to use in little pies. This week I baked a hearty batch of mincemeat flapjack and they all but disappeared in an afternoon. They’re simple, they’re filling and most of all, they’re delicious.

Easy Christmas Recipe: Mincemeat Flapjack

I confess, this idea is not my own. We went for a family walk at Tatton Park in Cheshire, whilst warming up with a cup of tea, we all had a piece of cake. I chose the mincemeat flapjack and was inspired enough to try to recreate it when I got home. If anything I think my version is slightly better, with more mincemeat and a less soggy, slightly firmer texture.

You could try adapting your own favourite flapjack recipe by adding some mincemeat, or you could try my recipe below. It’s delicious, a real crowd-pleaser and would be a lovely addition to a lunch box in the run up to Christmas! This recipe makes about 12 squares of flapjack.

Mincemeat Flapjack

Ingredients:

175g of light brown sugar
150g butter or margarine
3 tablespoons of golden syrup
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
200g of porridge oats
200g plain flour
150g mincemeat

How to make your mincemeat flapjack:

Pre-heat your oven to 180° and line a high sided baking tin with baking parchment. I use a roasting tin, because that’s all I have.

In a pan melt your butter, sugar, golden syrup and bicarbonate of soda. Make sure you stir occasionally until it’s all melted together. Once it’s all melted, add your mincemeat and stir through.

Put your flour and oats in a large bowl and pour over the contents of the pan, mix and mix until everything is well combined. Pour into your lined baking dish and put it in the oven for 20-30 minutes until it’s firm and golden.

Easy Christmas Recipe: Mincemeat Flapjack

Remove from the oven and leave to cool for as long as you can stand it. Slice the flapjack into squares and enjoy with a nice cup of tea.

If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also like to try –

Easy Christmas Recipe: Mincemeat Flapjack

Days Out: The Lanterns at Chester Zoo

We were invited to visit The Lanterns at Chester Zoo and were given complimentary tickets.

Last year we visited The Lanterns at Chester Zoo and we were utterly enchanted. We returned again over the weekend in the hopes that an evening surrounded by lights and magic would get us all ready to start celebrating the festive season, and that it did. It’s a really different way to see the zoo, with all the animals tucked up for the night, you get to explore a luminous magic world created for you by Wild Rumpus.

Days Out: The Lanterns at Chester Zoo

When we arrived it was raining a little; but we’d wrapped up warm against the cold and being from Manchester, a little bit of rain wasn’t going to dampen our spirits. Visitors are let through every 15 minutes, but we’d timed it perfectly, so we just walked through as a slot opened up.

We grabbed steaming cups of hot chocolate from the cafe and began exploring. We were met by a troop of illuminated zebras, who high fived us and posed for selfies, this set the tone for the evening very nicely.

Days Out: The Lanterns at Chester Zoo

The Lanterns follows a set route through Chester Zoo. It’s all lit up, so it’s impossible to get lost; and early on you get given a lantern to carry around. The smallish boy got a small metal bucket with an LED tealight in it and we got a large pyramid lantern on a stick.

There are a number of different themed areas; from the Basecamp you move to the Moonlit Meadow, to Underwater, Cloud Cuckoo Land to Tropical Dreams. Then on through the Enchanted Woodland and Northern Lights; then to the Night Sky Adventure and to Shangri La and then home in time for tea.

Days Out: The Lanterns at Chester Zoo

We made our way the the Moonlit Meadow; a wonderful snow covered spot filled with illuminated animals, from giant giraffes, graceful cheetahs, to a family of funny little penguins. All of the Chester Zoo favourites were represented there. We moved past the meadow and quickly encountered my favourite creature of all, a sea of brightly coloured jellyfish, wafting about in the breeze. We stood and watched them for a little while before moving off.

Days Out: The Lanterns at Chester Zoo

The boy loved the Tropical Dreams area best, with its brightly coloured frogs and waterfall, that was until he found the snow machine! He stayed and played under the snow machine for a good long time. He danced under the swirling foamy snowflakes, scooped up the foamy snow into balls and threw them at us, he was transfixed and it was wonderful to see.

There were a number of Christmas market style sheds in one area, all selling very temping smelling food and drink. We’d worked up an appetite, walking around the zoo, for hog roast and mulled wine were the order of the day; and very delicious they all were too.

Days Out: The Lanterns at Chester Zoo

We loved exploring The Lanterns, around every corner there was a new delight. We each had our favourites and the car journey home (and the next day or so) were filled with chatter about all the things we’d seen. The Lanterns is fast becoming a family tradition. It’s a great way for us to get in the mood for Christmas.

The Lanterns are running until December 23rd at Chester Zoo. Tickets start from £5.50 per child and £10.50 per adult.

For more information and to book tickets, visit https://lanterns.chesterzoo.org/.

We were invited guests of Wild Rumpus and Chester Zoo. All images and opinions are our own.

Christmas Crafts: How to make Pretty Paper Baubles

It’s the week before Christmas and I’ve got a million things to do. One of them is to plan some things for me and the boy to do on Friday. We have a whole day to ourselves before the madness begins, and he’s already requested crafts and baking. Those I can do. I’ve been wanting to try to make some paper baubles for a few weeks, I finally had the chance this morning.

These paper baubles are so simple to do, but they look pretty smart and I’m sure they cutting and sticking will appeal to my son. Paper bauble making will definitely be on our agenda for Friday.

Christmas Crafts: How to make Pretty Paper Baubles

How to make Pretty Paper Baubles

You will need:

Coloured or patterned paper
A glass
A pencil
Scissors
A glue stick
A length of ribbon

How to make Pretty Paper Baubles:

You’ll need coloured paper, I used plain red paper and a patterned red paper which I thought would work well together. On your coloured paper, draw around the rim of the glass to make a circle. You’ll need at least 8 circles to make your bauble.

Cut your circles out and fold them in half. If you’re using patterned paper, the pattern needs to be in the inside of the fold.

Christmas Crafts: How to make Pretty Paper Baubles

Using the glue stick, glue the folded halves together; if you’re using plain and patterned paper, alternate them. Make sure your circles are well stuck together, you might want to press them under a heavy book for half an hour to make sure they’re firmly glued together. I found it best to make two halves of the bauble before putting the ribbon on.

To fix the ribbon in place, give the inside half of one side of your bauble a really good rub with the glue stick. Lay your ribbon in place and having given the other half of the bauble a good rub with the glue stick, press the two sides together. Your bauble is complete and ready for hanging up on the tree.

It’s as simple as that!

If you enjoyed this, you might also like to try –

How to make Pretty Paper Baubles

How to plan an absolutely effortless Christmas Dinner

In a couple of weeks time families will be sitting down to enjoy Christmas dinner together. Christmas dinner is a real culinary highlight, it’s essentially the best roast dinner ever. Every family has their own favourites, some have beef or goose, most have turkey; I like Yorkshire puddings and several different types of stuffing. But one thing everyone has in common is Christmas dinner cooking nerves.

I take it in turns to host Christmas Day with my brother, this year is his turn, last year it was mine. I’ve been cooking Christmas dinner by myself since I was about 16. The two things that make it tricky are juggling everything for oven and hob space and getting everything cooked and ready at the same time.

How to plan an absolutely effortless Christmas Dinner

Each year there are typically around 8 people sat around our table for Christmas dinner. Out of this number, two are vegetarians and one of those has a number of intolerances to take into account. The meat eaters are very traditional, but whatever number of chipolatas your family eats, we have to double it. There’s a lot to juggle.

Typically our Christmas dinner includes –
  • Turkey
  • Veggie alternative, often a pie of some sort
  • Yorkshire puddings
  • Roast potatoes
  • Roast parsnips or sweet potatoes
  • Sprouts (obviously)
  • Carrots
  • Red cabbage
  • Stuffing – two kinds
  • Meat gravy
  • Veggie Gravy
  • Bread sauce

That’s just for the main course. We usually have a starter of soup and bread rolls and pudding is a selection of options (because each one of us is fussy) including Christmas pudding, mince pies, chocolate pudding, ice cream, and a selection of boozy creams and sauces. We also offer a cheese board and mints. It’s a huge meal!

Last Christmas I sat down and thought about it. I didn’t want to spend my Christmas Day stuck in the kitchen peeling sprouts and being a skivvy for everyone. I wanted to enjoy Christmas morning with my family and not have too much stress. With a bit of forward planning and prep the day before I managed to pull off my most relaxed Christmas in years.

Here’s what I did. I looked at what food I would be serving and planned what I could cook the day before and what would be better cooked on the day. Most of the food could be cooked ahead of time and warmed through before serving, even the roast potatoes. So this is what I did.

Turkey

This had to be cooked on the day, but that’s fine. Getting ahead of myself meant there was plenty of oven space for it. We also got a turkey crown from the butchers which cut down the cooking time by quite some margin.

How to plan an absolutely effortless Christmas Dinner

Veggie alternative

Last year I served a nut roast, because I love nut roast. I found a nice ready made one and cooked that on Christmas Day.

Yorkshire Puddings

Yorkshires really need to be made just before serving, there are no cheats here. Also, there’s no shame in buying the ready-made ones. Yorkshires can be tricky and who needs the added pressure on Christmas Day?

Roast Potatoes

I’ve been cooking my roast potatoes on Christmas Eve for years. Everyone has their own way of doing them, I like fluffy potatoes cooked in groundnut oil, but cook them however you prefer. Take them out of the oven when they’re starting to colour, remove them from the roasting tin and put them on a cooling rack with some kitchen towel underneath. Leave them to cool, once they’re cool, put them as they are on a plain baking tray with no extra oil. They’ll take an extra 20-30 minutes to warm through and crisp up on Christmas Day, but they’re really crisp, fluffy inside and because they’ve not sat in oil for too long they’re not as oily as they could be.

Roast parsnips or sweet potatoes

Just like the roast potatoes, you can pre-cook your parsnips or sweet potatoes ahead of time. They come out just as good as freshly cooked ones, just do what I did with the roast potatoes.

Sprouts

If you’ve not put these on to boil at the end of summer, you might as well cancel Christmas. Not really, but it’s the old joke. Sprouts aren’t great re-heated, so I leave them to cook on the hob on Christmas Day. It’s worth allowing a bit of extra time for them to cook because somehow vegetables always take much longer to cook when you’ve got guests waiting.

Carrots

Carrots really lend themselves to re-heating. I did almost all of my veg prep on the morning of Christmas Eve, all the peeling and chopping and par boiling and roasting. I boiled up my carrots with a bay leaf and once they were almost cooked through, I drained them, put them in a microwavable dish with a knob of butter and covered them with cling-film. Just before serving, I gave them a 5 minute blast in the microwave, a stir to coat everything in the little knob of butter and we had perfect carrots.

Red cabbage

I generally cook my red cabbage in the slow cooker, but I follow this recipe. Instead of cooking it on the hob I use the slow cooker, yes it takes a few hours more, but it frees some precious kitchen space and it’s the kind of thing which can happily sit and more or less look after itself. Last year I made this on Christmas Eve, then turned my slow cooker on low on Christmas morning, by the time Christmas dinner was being served it was heated through and delicious.

Stuffing

I love a good stuffing and as a vegetarian they are a good filling addition to my plate. I have traditionally used packet bought stuffings and pimped them up by stirring a spoon or two of cranberry sauce though before baking, but last year I made two different stuffings from scratch. Yes, it did take a bit more time, but they were so much tastier and the texture was lighter and less gluey. I’d urge you to find some time to make your own if you can. It was remarkably simple, especially if you’ve got a food processor to do the chopping for you. I made my stuffings on Christmas Eve and they just needed baking in the oven on the day. I’m converted to homemade stuffing now.

Meat & Veggie Gravy

I am a big old cheat when it comes to gravy. Sometimes I make my own, but even with my plan-ahead precision, Christmas Day is too hectic for me to be faffing about too much. You can either make your gravy ahead of time and freeze it, or go to your local shop and buy a tub of fresh ready-made gravy and heat it up on the day.

Bread Sauce

Bread sauce is one of my favourite things about Christmas Dinner. Weirdly only my husband and me really like it, so it’s not something I devote too much time to. I’m happy to cheat, cheat, cheat with bread sauce. Buy a fresh tub of it from a good shop, bang it in the microwave and serve. Half the table will pull their face at it anyway, whether you’ve spent an hour stirring a pan or 2 minutes waiting for the mircowave to ping.

I think Christmas Dinner is all about picking your battles. For me, freshly made stuffing is really worth it, but I don’t need to stress of flat as a pancake Yorkshire puddings on Christmas Day. My stress-free Christmas dinner planning was noticed, gone were fraught scenes in the kitchen with me looking hot and bothered, instead I served a very good dinner with all the cool control of a northern Nigella.

Next year it’s my turn to cook Christmas Dinner and I know that I’ll do exactly the same again. Maybe I’ll cook my gravies from scratch and freeze them, but spending Christmas Eve morning doing all the prep and most of the cooking is time very well spent.

Do you have any top tops for an effortless Christmas dinner?

How to plan an absolutely effortless Christmas Dinner